Valieva & Putin are ‘two most popular people in Russia’ – skating icon
Figure skater Kamila Valieva has become even more beloved in her Russian homeland after her Olympic ordeal and now has popularity on a par with President Vladimir Putin, ice dancing queen Tatiana Navka has said.
Valieva saw her Olympic dream turn into a nightmare in Beijing after she won gold in the team event only to be caught up in the middle of a doping case based on a sample taken back in December.
The drama surrounding the 15-year-old became the biggest talking of the Beijing Games, and although the star returned home distraught after missing out on a medal in the individual event, she was welcomed warmly by her compatriots upon arriving in Moscow last week.
On Monday, Valieva joined other Russian Olympians in a celebration of their Beijing success at a glitzy concert at the VTB Arena in downtown Moscow, after the final contingent of athletes arrived home from China.
Valieva was seen smiling as she greeted fellow stars, including figure skating teammate Anna Shcherbakova, who won the women’s individual gold.
Valieva and other Russian figure skaters were not awarded their gold medals for the team event in Beijing after the ceremony was postponed following the news of Valieva’s positive sample.
But on Monday, Valieva and fellow stars Mark Kondratiuk, Victoria Sinitsina, Nikita Katsalapov, Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov were all given necklaces bearing hearts in the same alignment as the Olympic rings.
The gifts were presented by 2006 Olympic ice dance champion Navka, who sympathized with how tough it must have been for Valieva in Beijing.
“I can’t even imagine how she felt. All night they tormented her [at her doping case hearing]... How she worried, how her parents worried, who couldn’t help her, [or] simply hold her hand. It’s all very sad,” said the 46-year-old.
“I just spoke to her and said that in the whole country today, the two most quoted and most popular people are her and Vladimir Putin,” added Navka, who is married to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Valieva addressed her Olympic experience in two emotional Instagram posts earlier on Monday, thanking her coaching team which includes trainer Eteri Tutberidze, who has faced added scrutiny and criticism from the likes of International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach in the wake of the Beijing scandal.
Valieva’s Beijing Games turned sour after it was reported she had tested positive for banned heart drug trimetazidine, in a sample taken on December 25 but which was only reported on February 8.
A Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel declined to impose a suspension on the teenager, freeing her to continue to compete although the pressure from the ordeal proved too much as she faltered in her routine performance.
Russian officials and Valieva’s team have maintained that she is innocent, noting that the star – who is a multiple world record holder for scores for her routines – repeatedly tested negative before and after the positive sample.
It has been suggested that the result may have come due to contamination from heart medicine Valieva’s grandfather was taking, although the case seems set to drag on.